I don’t have nightmares. It is my understanding that nightmares are unpleasant, and since it is good sense to avoid things that are unpleasant, it naturally follows that I would therefore choose to avoid nightmares.
Mistress, on the other hand, has terrible nightmares. The kind of nightmares that wake her up screaming and crying in the middle of the night. The kind of nightmares that rudely interrupt my peaceful slumbers, and force me to hide one of every three of her socks, because homie don’t play around with his sleep, so if you messin’ with my Zzzs, you know I’m getting devastating revenge.
Her nightmares aren’t constant. If they were, I’d be putting her into her travel crate and taking her to a shrink immediately. She generally only gets them when she has had an unhealthy amount of candy and caffeine before bed. So, only about six days a week. There’s a pretty well-documented link between diet and sleep quality, so it doesn’t really surprise me when I get woken up by Mistress’ screaming night terrors on evenings where I come to bed and she’s lying on a mountain of candy wrappers with chocolate schmear on her face. Even with the clear correlation between her quest for adult onset diabetes and her nocturnal fright fests, I still mostly assumed that her nightmares were on purpose. She likes scary movies after all. I figured she was just a wacko, and bad dreams were fun for her. It never really occurred to me that her nightmares were not by choice, and that in fact she does not even know she is dreaming when it is happening.
I have been informed that this is indeed the case. Which was surprising for me. I don’t get scared of things in my dreams. I’m the biggest bad ass there. I’m the Freddy Krueger of my dreams.
It probably helps that when I dream, I know that I’m dreaming. Always. Additionally, when I dream, I have complete control over the dream environment. For me, having a dream is like designing an interactive video game, or directing and starring in a movie. I am not just the recipient of my dreams, I am their architect.
I gather that this is odd. Odd, but not unheard of. There’s even a label for it. I am a lucid dreamer. I don’t know the science behind what makes a lucid dreamer so different from a normal dreamer, and honestly I don’t really want to know. I’d rather not subject myself to some sort of sleep study or brain scan and have the doctors tell me that:
a) I have a brain tumor the size of cantaloupe, which will either turn me into a telekinetic miracle worker and then kill me like John Travolta’s character in the movie Phenomenon, or;
b) Turn me into a delusional sexual deviant like actual John Travolta, and then kill me, or;
c) my brain activity proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’m a textbook sociopath, and I need to be executed immediately for the good of all mankind. Like John Travolta.
I can’t recall if I was always a lucid dreamer, but the earliest dreams I can remember were lucid dreams. I had a recurring dream in elementary school where if I concentrated hard enough on the playground, I could fly. I wasn’t a very impressive flier, I admittedly could only hover about four feet above the surface of the ground, and I didn’t move around much faster than a swift jog, but I recall spending many pleasant nights using my dream flight powers to cheat at playground games or escape school altogether to live a life of savage innocence in the woods behind our kickball field.
I don’t know what a normal dream experience looks like, but I can try to explain a lucid dream.
Step one – I fall asleep.
Step two – I get bored, because sleeping is fucking boring, so I decide to dream.
Step three – I choose what to dream about. Do I want to look through the archives and dust off an old favorite, or do I want to build a new one? Some common themes I enjoy dreaming about are playing football, fist fighting, having sex, or going on epic quests.
Step four – I dream. I’m generally the protagonist, because I like being the hero, and even dream me is a selfish prick, but sometimes if I’m feeling lazy or overly clinical, I’m just an observer or narrator. I usually allow the dream to unfold naturally once I’ve chosen my characters, premise, plot, etc., because the more edits I make the harder it is to keep the dream together, but if something bothers me enough i’ll definitely re-write and redo a scene, or change the rules to give myself some hitherto previously unimagined advantage at the cost of lost continuity and flow within the dream environment. You can see how nightmares would be hard to experience when you can edit out any unbearably offensive monsters, or better yet just upgrade your dream body into becoming an unstoppable war robot with chainsaw hands and laser beam eyes who simply grinds the puny monster into a slimy monster goo. My dreams don’t always have satisfactory endings, but that’s more because I get woken up before they are finished, or I find that I lack sufficient imagination to finish them properly, than because I consciously allow unsatisfactory things to happen to me.
Step five – I wake up, usually grumpy, because dreams are sweet, and I’d rather be the warrior wizard sex god of my dreams than face another day of dreary real life.
I don’t remember everything about my dreams, and I don’t bother to write down notes when I come up with a dream that might translate well into a short story or novel, but I remember enough material that I’m fairly confident I already have sufficient fiction inspiration to last several lifetimes.
I sometimes wish that my conscious mind would release enough control while I’m asleep that I could experience a non-lucid dream, since it sounds fascinating and vaguely terrifying to dream without knowing you’re dreaming, but then I remember that any time I want I can be a viking warrior dressed in ragged chain-mail and dire wolf furs trudging through a Jotunheim blizzard when all of a sudden I’m confronted by Loki in his frost giant form, and he wants to do great battle, but our axes are actually sick flying V style electric guitars, and after dueling for a while I vanquish him with a face melting guitar solo that is actually the greatest guitar solo ever played in the history of rock, and I’m crowned the Lord of Metal, which is convenient because the industrial age is coming, and I’ll be able to make a fortune from licensing fees on all the iron, steel and aluminum produced and used in the nine realms.
You know what I mean?